Monday, February 16, 2009

All Time Favorite Indians Lineup

To kick off the pitchers and catchers reporting, I’ll move back to the realm of sports.  I haven’t written a sports blog in a while so this is appropriate for President’s day, I’ll write about sports.

Leadoff and starting in center field,

Kenny Lofton

Sorry Grady, you’ll have to ride the pine for 
this series.  Kenny Lofton was one of the best leadoff hitters I’ve seen play live.  HOFer Ricky Henderson is the best I was able to
 watch on TV, put Kenny is the best I’ve seen with my eyes.  Since acquiring Lofton from the Astros, he provided the pop in the lineup that we needed for those powerhouse hitters in the 2-9 spots on the ’94 and ’95 Tribe.

Batting Second and playing Second Base

Julio Franco 

I couldn’t find a better picture, I’m impatient and this was on the first google search page.  Who didn’t love hearing Mr. Johnson yell at the top of his lungs in the old Upper Reserve at Municipal, JJUULLIIOOO!!!!!!  Besides the fun time with Ricky, Dad, and Coach, we got to see Julio in his prime in Cleveland at the young age of 72 in 1988.  Now Julio stars in “Back on Topps” another Eisener webgem.

Hitting Third  and playing Leftfield

Joe Carter

The game where I was keeping score and almost got beaned by a JC homer and then cousin Scott almost got stuck underneath the seat diving for the ball, priceless.


Cleanup and playing Right

Albert Jojuan Belle

The reason why I hate Gene Lamont and the rest of the White Sox.  When Belle showed his guns proving he didn’t need cork, nuff said.  The guy should be a cop, he caught criminals with his laser like throws into the stands, and chases down juvenile delinquents in a single bound in his Escalade.  If he wasn’t a superhero posing as a ball player then call me Batman.  I still wear my Belle jersey T-shirt with pride.

Batting Fifth and playing First Base

Jim Thome

The “Pride of Peroria” still another hammer in the lineup and another good memory.  Detroit, Comerica Park, dad dropping his bag of peanuts and shells onto the guy in front of us.  Awesome.  Also, I can’t let it be not said, when your wife is your rock and she is a newscaster I had a crush on as a teenager, then props my man, props.

Batting Sixth and hitting DH

Manny “The Baby Bull” “Manny being Manny” Ramirez

Again, I have to apologize to Kim for being a Red Sox hater, Manny’s ours, he grew up here, we uttered the phrase Manny being Manny before you did, and an entire first grade class at a west side elemen
tary school is probably begat by Manny.  

Batting Seventh and Catching

Sandy Alomar, Jr.

I couldn’t find the picture I wanted, the one where Sandy karate kicks a White Sox for beanning him.  I had it on my wall in my bedroom and didn’t save the picture, why lord, why?  It was one of the sweatest air kicks, ala Daniel Larusso style, Mr. Miyagi would be proud.


Batting Eight and playing Third

Brook Jacoby

All hustle, one of the players you could have pride in as a child of the 80s.  Also, he’s my friend Jessica’s favorite Indian.

Batting Ninth and playing Shortstop

Omar Vizquel

When my grandmother used to talk about how cute he was, that was awesome.  Grandma was a die hard Indians fan, and probably the biggest reason besides hanging out with my dad and brothers why I love baseball so much.  


Oddibe McDowel

Another of my grandma’s faves when he played for the Rangers she liked saying his name and then when we had him for 69 games it all came together.

Keith Hernandez

Again we had him for a short time, but I had a Keith Hernandez autograph Firstbasemen’s glove.  Dude dated Elaine Benes and partied with Gooden and Strawberry in the 80s in NYC, enough said.

Grady Sizemore

Despite how much I hate him that he can date any woman in Cleveland, he’s turning into an okay ballplayer and seems like a nice kid.

Joel Skinner

Backup catcher and all around good guy, I met him at the museum and he read a children’s story.  I got his autograph and I might have been more nervous meeting him than when I met Ozzie Newsome.

Felix Fermin

Del Gatto, I was there for his first MLB homerun, and hey we could always trade him for another Vizquel. That was in 1990 his fourth year in the league, he’d go on to hit 3 more.  That’s Malkamaki power.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Sisu: or as Patty asked, "What's a Malkamaki"

The Malkamaki Family cicra 1941

This is going to be one of the most personal blogs, because for one there’s my last name in the title of the post.  Also, as many people know my Finnish heritage is one of the strongest influences, interest, and research topics in my life.  Being a Finn, I’m part of a select community; the homeland only has a population of around five million.  New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles all almost have populations larger than the population of the country.  So in America, there are not many of us, and I’ve discovered over the years the Finnish-American community recognizes this bond almost immediately.  We have the same pride as Sicilians, remember they’re not Italians, the islanders and the folks from the mainland both believe this from my experiences.  Finns have that same pride, we talk about why our family came to America, the jobs they found, the locations they lived, and the social makeup that all Finns share, stubbornness, strong-mindedness, political loyalties, and for the worst part, grudges.  But there is another bond we have and that is Sisu.

I'll tell you what Sisu is in a moment, but first why is the subtitle, “Or as Patty asked, ‘What’s a Malkamaki?’”  That’s an interesting story.  I started my current job in November 2001 and for me and my family members we suffer from a similar fate, our last name.  Most when you meet them for the first time, cannot pronounce the name.  This goes to teachers in elementary school, telemarketers, being interviewed for a job, trying to place a reservation, or dealing with people over the phone.  Another problem is most people assume we’re Hawaiian.  There is nothing wrong with being Hawaiian, I’d be proud if I was, but most white people that have Anglo sounding names, don’t have to deal with this.  Because so few know where Finland is, or have ever met a Finn, when you meet people for the first time, I’ve found my siblings, cousins, and other Finns have to start introductions with a history of the country and what a Finn is.  Normally people then try to rationalize why they think your Hawaiian, almost as if you’re wrong and they are right.  (As a side note, my mom always told me that she thought we were black and that we always felt we had more in common with blacks.  I found out today that dark haired, and Finns with a darker complexion were called blacks in Finland, so in a sense yes, I’m Black and proud of it and I’ve always been, I’m not an African-American, I’m Black, thank you to the genealogist for that one.)  So long paragraph short, my first day of work, someone asked, “What’s a Malkamaki,” not realizing that’s my last name and it’s been an inside joke for over ten years.

On to Sisu.  The definition that I was taught by family is an inner strength that only Finns have.  When you look the word up in travel dictionaries, you see the term described as guts.  Wikipedia, which you may or may not agree with using, but hey it’s the fastest place for basic information defines sisu as, “Sisu is a Finnish term that could be roughly translated into English as strength of will, determination, perseverance, and acting rationally in the face of adversity. The equivalent in English is "to have guts", and indeed, the word derives from sisus, which means something inner or interior. However, sisu has a long-term element in it; it is not momentary courage, but the ability to sustain the same.”[1]  I agree with this entry, it is not simply to have guts, there is a metaphysical, spiritual meaning to the word.  The final stories I would like to share are two of the most spiritual moments I’ve had in the last few years, both took place at my grandfather’s and both dealt with what I viewed as the meaning of Sisu.

Story the First Grandpa Jaakko Vittori Malkamaki

This was back in the Winter of 2003-2004, I love the snow.  When it snows, I don’t get disappointed, I love the beauty of the white stuff, I feel my blood boil, a yearning for playing in the snow, being one with the snow, living in an area surrounded by snow and utilizing it as a way to guide life comes out when I see inches upon inches of the beautiful, sparkling, diamond-esque white stuff covering the earth.  With that I love to go sledding.

The speed of the wind, the ability to hit ramps, sail through the air as a bird, and land on the white, protective blanket of snow and avoid injury, is a rush like no other.  I totally dig how the Finns dominate the Ski Jump in the Winter Olympics, still one of my favorite events.  The term “Flying Finn,” originated with Hannes Kolehmainen, later Pavo Nurmi and the other great runners, but ski jumping and watching Matti Nykanen, the then newly christened “Flying Finn” during the 1988 Alberta Olympics took my heart.

Sledding is the best way I can imagine being able to perform this feat.  My nephew loves sledding and I decided that I’d visit with my brother and sister-in-law at their home (our Great-Grandfather’s) and go sledding with my nephew on the hill across the street from my Grandfather’s where most of the Malkamaki’s learned to sled.  Eventually not just my nephew, but my nieces found there way from my sisters a half mile away and we had the time of our lives, at least I did.  The sled and my orkalike body wouldn’t allow two people so we devised the plan that I’d lay on my stomach and the they’d sit on my back as we’d glide down the hill to enjoy the experience together, which we did.

Towards the end of the sledding adventure, as our faces were pink, our clothes were wet, we decided to conquer the jump.  Every year teenagers from the neighborhood build a ramp at the bottom of the hill and the goal for the younger children is to build enough courage, or stock pile your Sisu, for the children of Finns, to finally be able to hit the jump.

My nephew and I missed the hill to the left, right, sometimes we’d spin out if you were going to hit it dead center.  Our exhaustion and anger were slowly starting to build when I finally took a breather and told Tyler, “We’ll give it one more shot but I think we need to ask Great-Grandpa or your Great-Great Grandpa for help.”

Now, I’ll let you know that winter, I was having a difficult time.  I had just broken up with the woman I was going to marry, my bestfriend and I were not speaking, and I was in the middle of my parents divorce.  I needed help, just as I knew that jumping that speed bump would mean so much to my nephew. 

As we prepared ourselves, I told him to gather his SISU and as we start to descend the hill I told him we had to shout out in our best Finn accents, “HELP US GRANDPA JAAKKO VITTORI!”

With our plan in place, we strapped on our gear and made our final push, and as we screamed at the top of our lungs, and gave our Rebel Yell, I could tell we were going to hit the ramp with more, speed, more accuracy than I thought we’d be able to achieve. 

To this day my nephew and I both agree we went at least six feet into the air and were carried softly to the ground.  As we sat yards away from the ramp, sled, Uncle Chad, and nephew in different locals, we looked at each other and were simply amazed, and thankful, because we knew Grandpa Jacob helped us to our goal.

Story the Second Grandpa Lauri Jacob Malkamaki

My grandfather passed away this summer.  He had lived an amazing eighty nine years.  He was the first Malkamaki born in America, served in the United States Marine Corp during World War II, and worked between the Diamond and Lake West Hospital through the 1980s.  He was an amateur historian in family history, genealogy, linguistics, and onomastics. 

While in college as my grandfathers speech was starting to deteriorate, there was nothing I loved more than being able to spend time sitting with him and hearing the history of the family, his life, and the things he loved.  Once, he handed me a journal that he had written in, my cousin Beth gave my grandfather the journal.  I have transcribed the journal and now have lost where I saved those files.  I gave the book back to Grandpa, but I think the files are either on my PC or my brothers, or on a floppy disk located somewhere between the two.

One of the last stories my grandfather told in this book was about the local dump, near the sled hill there is a dip that runs along a creek, that is a sublet of the Grand River in Painesville Township.  Our cousins Armi and John had recently, at the time the story took place, moved to America, and had thrown out a coach.  My grandfather was disappointed because he felt as immigrants, they viewed America as the place where the streets are paved with gold and they had already as recent arrivals adopted American practices of consumption and disposal.  This upset my grandfather, but he told of how proud he was of my dad and how he tried to save these items, family items, from being discarded.  Our dining room table since I was a child was this beautiful round oak table.  It wasn’t until I was older that I learned it was almost a hundered years old and had belonged to my Great-Grandfather and Grandmother.  My dad had restored the table and the place where me and my sibilings had ate while young was at the same table where my dad and uncle probably had their first cup of coffee from Grandpa and Grandma Malkamaki.

My Grandfather was so proud of my father how he didn’t let something be thrown away.  Now fast forward to the fall of 2008.   My grandfather had passed, we were cleaning out his home.  I saved as many paper and books that I could get my hands on so that history would not be lost.  The furniture however I didn’t save, I was merely the grunt working for my dad, Uncle Ken, and Uncle Duke.  Uncle Ken brought this end table out that my gut told me I should ask for but I didn’t know how I’d get the item to my apartment since I didn’t have a car and my dad didn’t have a truck.  Uncle Ken and my father had asked me to sledge apart the items to fit them into the dumpster because we were running out of room.

I knew Grandpa would be disappointed if he would have seen what we were doing.  When I sledged apart the organ that we used to play on as children I almost cried.  When this end table came out, no one from the older generation wanted it, and it became my job to smash it apart.  As I raised the hammer about my head ala Thor, the first hit didn’t damage this wooden item.  The gods were sending a signal I was not listening.

I gathered my energy and felt that I couldn’t let my father or Uncle down that I couldn’t complete the task before me and I decided that I would break this table even though I wanted the table and thought it would have looked great in my apartment, but alas, I was given a job and I would have to complete this task.

With the second strike, the world came together, why didn’t I have my baseball cap on to protect me from dirt and grim, that hat that I was taught to wear as a child when doing work, why did the swing I administered feel that a swing of a bat, a Rocky Cavalito shot to center, why wasn’t I listening to what my grandfather taught me about preservation, what I do for a living, what I’m trained for?

When metal touched wood, a piece of the table flew into the air, not a big piece, not a piece large enough to kill me, but a piece large enough to smack me in the forehead, and forever leave the sweetest Harry Potter scar on my forehead.  This was my second presence of Sisu, the Force, I felt like Luke Skywalker at the end of Jedi looking over at that moment and seeing my Grandfather, Uncle Arn, and Great-Grandpa sitting along the fence, Kulia in hand, smiling, saying yep you should have listened.

Sisu, and Kittos for spending time reading.

[1] Wikipedia February 8, 2009

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Who to Root For Super Bowl Edition

Once again, it’s the Super Bowl, and one of my two NFL franchises is not in the game.  Now, I’ve had bad luck in reason years, as far as championships are concerned.  Let’s look at the history of the final game of the year in the various sports that I watch. 

For this I like to go to the year 2007… 

Britney was being Britney, Many was being Many, and it was one of the worst years of my life in regards to sports.  

I don’t use that last phrase lightly, it was the greatest jackrammer (for anyone that watched the Loop they’d get that reference, I also could have said the obscenus word used by the doctor I’m in love with Elliot Reid’s frick, also how do I add footnotes to a blog?  That was for Marissa, see I love footnotes I can’t stop it…) sports year of my life.  Let’s review. 

High School Football 

The Mentor Cardinals lost the Ohio State Athletic Association Div. 1 title, now I didn’t go to Mentor, but I lived in Mentor at the time and in fact our first house when I was a Babe was in Mentor so I was part of One Team Same Dream, and I was rooting for Coach Anderson.  I’ve been going to all the playoff games with my brother, Uncle Mike, Dad, Andrew, Mary Beth, and James.  Mentor football bonding is where Uncle Mike got mad at Andrew for talking like Ditka, and Andrew also wanted the fillet, but those are stories for other times. 

NCAA Championship

THE Ohio State University lost to that team from the state that gave us BUSH.  Enough said.  Also we broke Ted Ginn’s ankle but again a post for another time.

Super Bowl

DA Bears.  Again Devon Hester why’d you pull a Ted Ginn?  I was starting to not like sports at this point. 

NCAA Basketball Championship

Oh Greg Oden, Oh Michael Connely, Oh the Egg Rolls that I fell on and now have a scar on my right upper bicep that I need to tattoo over…enough said again

NBA Championship

Ha, Ha, Ha, I hate the Detroit Pistons, and Detroit baseball fans, oh wait, why don’t I hate the Spurs except that Tony Parker’s the luckiest guy in the world, oh that’s right they gave us Danny Ferry and Mike Brown (Your Eastern Conference All Star Coach boy!)

World Series

Finally I got a break, by this point, Marissa came up with the Marissa Rule or Ben might have came up with the rule, but alas, you know what happened against the angry beaners from Boston (sorry Kim).

Since then whatever team I’m rooting for in the finals loses, Germany in the Euro Cup, the Pats against the Giants (everyone in the bar was rooting for the Giants so I had to root for the under dog at the HOB.

Anyway so what does this have to do with tonight?  Nothing.  But, it’s easy who I’m rooting for if you know me.  Pittsburg, come on, I’m Cleveland to the bone and despite what Rooney did for Obama, I can not root for that city to win another Super Bowl, hey Pukesburg where were you in the 40s, 50s, 60s, and 80s when we were good?  Anyway the Cards, where are they from?  Not Arizona, nor Phoenix, nor St. Louis, but what wait a minute, Chicago.  So transitively, if I love Chicago, and the Bears and Browns are not in the Super Bowl, then I have to back the other Chicago team founded in 1920 DA CARDS, Go Kurt, Go Larry, but since I’m backing you there is a far greater chance that you’re going to lose as well,